Lorelai rushed towards Tamashi while Pixelton and Spindel were still dazed from her attack. "Ember Rose!" A burning red rose shot out of Lorelai's outstretched hand, the stem piercing the webbing that had Tamashi glued to the ground.
The rose glowed a bright red before it burst into flame. Tamashi clenched her teeth, but she didn't scream as the fire spread across the webbing. Sweat beaded her brow as she watched the fire crawl closer to her exposed legs, but it never reached that far. With a puff of air the fire dissipated, taking the web with it.
Tamashi took a shaky breath as Lorelai finally reached her. "You're crazy, you know that?" The red head said to the other girl.
But Lorelai wasn't in the joking mood. She kept her eyes on Pixelton and Spindel as they staggered to their feet. "Talk later." She growled. Her anger was still boiling beneath her skin. Images of her family flashed through her mind, adding fuel to the fire. She wanted to make them pay. Her eyes focused on Spindel. "She tortured my brother to death. She's mine."
Tamashi rolled her shoulders and popped her neck. "Fine." She said flatly. "That means I get the pain in the ass with that sounds like a squeaky toy. Great." She gathered up her magic and she smiled wickedly as purple tendrils of smoke began creeping into the floor, searching for more husks to possess.
Across the room, Erk was jumping from pillar to pillar, trying to avoid the slashing of Milo's scythe.
He was laughing as Milo became more and more frustrated with every missed slash. "Miss me, miss me, now you've gotta – HOLY SHIT!" While he'd been laughing, he hadn't noticed a small army of Sissies standing on all the pillars within jumping range.
He was in mid jump and heading straight towards the outstretched arms of a Sissy. "Come here, Erky boy." She cooed with a mischievous grin. "Sissy will make it feel all better."
Erk panicked. Crap, crap, crap, crap. Falling into Sissy's arms would mean death. And that put a bit of a damper on the whole life thing.
Then Milo jumped behind him, smiling maliciously with his scythe raised. "Gotcha now!"
That's when Erk got an idea. Tilting his head backwards, he smiled cheekily at him as the scythe came ever closer to his face. Then a yellow magic circle appeared at his feet. "Have fun, you two." With that, he was propelled not to another pillar, but to the ground.
Milo growled as he watched Erk run from them. Which is why he didn't realize his scythe was still swinging towards someone. Sissy screamed as it sliced towards her head. She barely ducked in time so that only a few hairs from the top of her head were chopped off.
She watched her hair strands fall to the ground teary eyed before getting angry and every single Sissy clone glared at Milo as he landed on her pillar next to her. "Damn that jumpy little squirrel!" Milo yelled.
The Sissy clones bristled at his nonchalance at almost killing her. "Watch what you're doing, you cad!" Twelve Sissies screamed at once. The one on the same pillar as him poked him in the chest with her finger. "You nearly cut my head off! Watch what you're doing."
Milo cringed at the girl and growled. "Them maybe you shouldn't get in the way of me and my prey, bimbo!" He shot back.
Sissy and her clones gasped. Milo's angry demeanor was swapped for a slightly worried one as all the Sissies glared daggers at him. "Uh oh." He said with a gulp.
"Bimbo!?" They screeched at him. "Is that what you called me?" Sissy grabbed him by the collar and pulled him so that he was looking her in the eye. "I didn't hear you calling me that last night!" She grabbed his face with her hand. "What happened to princess? Or goddess? Or queen? You were singing a different tune when we were in my room."
Milo tried pulling away from the enraged girl but couldn't as he started losing feeling in his arms and legs. "Poison, poison." He pleaded, slightly panicked.
But Sissy wasn't listening to him. "Of all the ungrateful, stupid men I've ever known, you take the cake." She continued ranting. "I didn't even take any of your magic out of courtesy to Master Harlas and this is how you repay me? By calling me a bimbo?"
Leaning against a pillar, Erk was almost shaking with suppressed laughter. "Man," he said between laughs, "I wish I had some popcorn."
While Erk was watching the show, Dante was busy fighting for his life. A group of earth imps had Bligoro surrounded, but they wouldn't keep him busy for long. Not far away, Dante was holding a bloodied arm close to his body. He'd been careless. He'd tried to uppercut Bligoro in an attempt to keep his mouth shut, but the fat man was faster than he looked. In one swift movement he'd bitten down on Dante's arm and tore a chunk of flesh off.
I thought he was just a stooge. He thought to himself. But he's more dangerous than that. If I don't be careful, he'll eat me alive.
He watched his imps try to poke at Bligoro with their spears, but larger man just simply bit down on anything that got too close, swallowing whole anything he chomped down on. "The guy must have a stomach made of steel." Dante deadpanned.
"Bligoro no like you little things." Bligoro said to the imps. "You smell like dirt. Taste bad too. Bligoro no like!" He turned to Dante. "Why Bad Smelly no fight no more? Bad Smelly taste better than little pointy things."
"Because you'll try to eat me, you cannibalistic freak!" The brown haired boy shot at him. Then he clenched his teeth. But he's got a point. I need to fight. My imps aren't strong enough to face him. He took a step forward, but hesitated. He didn't want to admit it, but he was scared of getting bit again. So instead he put his hands together and said, "Earth Make: Wyvern!"
A wyvern made of stone and earth flew out of the brown magic circle that appeared before Dante's clasped hands. The wings were massive and had dirt making up the membrane. Everything else on its body was covered in stone scales that jutted out intimidatingly. It had no legs, instead having a winding tail that coiled in the air. Its eye sockets were empty with nothing but stone inside. It let out a roar, revealing its large stone teeth that looked strong enough to bite through steel.
Bligoro had his back turned, but at the approach of the wyvern, the imps all disintegrated into piles of dirt and dust. Confused, Bligoro scratched the top of his head with his large hands. As the shadow of the wyvern fell over him, Bligoro turned around to stare at the giant winged beast towering over him from above.
"Bligoro no like! Bligoro no like big fangs!" He yelled suddenly. He tried to run away, but the wyvern whipped its tail at him, smacking him and causing him to fall to his side and roll across the ground by the force of the impact. He only stopped when a stone pillar halted his path.
The wyvern wasted no time in wrapping its tail around he fat man and squeezing until he started to scream. "Let Bligoro go!" he shouted.
Dante just shook his head and smiled victoriously. "Not until you agree to bounce your tubby ass out of here and promise not to come back."
"Never!" Bligoro countered loudly. "Bligoro will never betray Master. Never!"
Dante sighed with fake sadness. "Suit yourself. Shows me to try acting kind to a lunatic." He snapped his fingers and the wyvern roared loudly. With its mouth wide open, the wyvern bit down on a screaming Bligoro as he tried to squirm out of the wyvern's grasp. But it was in vain as the stone beast swallowed him whole.
Dante laughed as his wyvern slowly flew towards him, still holding his bloody arm. "I couldn't resist the irony." He said. "That'll teach him what it feels like to be the one being eaten for a change." Looking up towards his wyvern, he called, "Good job! Now you can…go…huh?" As he looked at it, the stone beast started acting strangely. It made pained sounds and it squirmed in the air, its tail writhed from side to side.
"Please don't be what I think it is." Dante pleaded.
But it was exactly what he feared. The middle of the wyvern began to expand, the stone scales scraping each other until the area was as round as a balloon. Then it exploded, bits of dirt and stone falling in every direction. And along with the debris came Bligoro. There were bits of stone and dirt in his mouth, which he chewed as he fell. The remains of the wyvern fell lifelessly as well, threatening to crush both Bligoro and Dante if it landed, leaving Dante no choice but to dispel the magic, causing the beast to disintegrate into dust.
But while he was buy doing that, he didn't notice Bligoro rocket towards him from above, his mouth opened wide and his tongue hanging out. He slammed into Dante like a missile, causing a smokescreen of dust to shoot up.
When the dust cleared, Bligoro had Dante pinned to the ground, one hand squeezing Dante's wounded arm, making the Pumpkin King wizard scream in pain. "Bligoro no like you." The larger man hissed. "You make bad things happen to Bligoro. You make Bligoro look stupid. But Bligoro no stupid. Bligoro smart."
Dante wanted to say something back, maybe a witty comment that would irritate the man pinning him to the ground. But the moment he opened his mouth, Bligoro squeezed his arm even harder, causing pain to spasm through his body to the point that only a scream escaped his lips.
"Bligoro win though. Bligoro always win." He said, squeezing Dante's arm again with ever sentence. "Now Bligoro eat you up. You no smell good, but Bligoro sure taste good." He opened his mouth wide. "You go bye-bye now."
Dante could only scream out one thing as Bligoro's teeth came closer and closer. He gritted his teeth together and squeezed his eyes shut to try and block out the pain as he yelled, "Help!"
It wasn't much, but it was all he needed. From up in the rafters, a caw sounded and Peeko dove towards the two in a flurry of black feathers. He pulled out of his dive just in time to scrape his claws against Bligoro's scalp, causing him to scream in pain.
Bligoro whipped his head around, trying to find Peeko, but the bird had already put itself between him and Dante, flapping his wings to keep in the air in case he needed to fly away. He cawed at him tauntingly, which made Bligoro boil in frustration. "Bird no fight Bligoro! Bird belong in Bligoro stomach!" He was about to lurch forward to chomp down on Peeko, but something stopped him. There was something about Peeko's eyes that seemed to hypnotize the dark guild member. He slowly sat back and let go of Dante's arm as he stared into the crow's eyes.
There was something in his eyes, but before he could figure out what they were the trap was sprung. Purple magic circles burst forth from his eyes and enveloped Bligoro. The fat man screamed, causing his chin to jiggle with the motion, his eyes wide in fear.
Dante watched Bligoro with horrid fascination. He was just staring at Peeko and screaming. The crow itself just flapped there, never looking away from Bligoro. And then the screaming stopped. One moment, his enemy was screaming like his life depended on it and the next he just sat there, his mouth hanging open and his eyes staring blankly.
Dante sat up to his knees, keeping his eyes on Bligoro. Peeko cawed once before alighting on Dante's shoulder. But the Earth wizard didn't take any notice of him. He slowly crept towards Bligoro and waved a hand in front of his face. Bligoro didn't react. Then he snapped his fingers in front of his face. Still nothing. So finally he said, "Uh…anyone home?"
That seemed to snap Bligoro out of it. He blinked a few times before he noticed Dante and Peeko. He took one look at them before screaming incoherently and whirling around to look at his surroundings like he'd never seen them before. Dante lurched back, not sure what the other man was going to do. But before he could even do anything, Bligoro babbled something before running off, screaming for his life.
All Dante could say was, "Whoa." As Bligoro ran off to hide behind a pillar, he just turned his head to look at Peeko and said, "Remind me to never get on your bad side." The crow just cawed in agreement.
Back on the main floor of the room, Tamashi and Lorelai were busy with fights of their own. Lorelai was going at it like a demon from hell. Spindel shot web after web, but Lorelai either jumped out of the way or summoned a flower that either burned the web to a useless crisp or blew it out of the way with a rush of air. She ran towards to veiled woman, but with every step she took, Spindel took a step back.
"You took everything from me!" She shouted. "You killed my family! You even tortured my brother before his death!" She jumped at Spindel, but she just jumped backwards. With a frustrated growl, Lorelai pointed a gloved hand towards the ground beneath Spindel's feet. "Water Lily Typhoon!" A blue lily appeared next to her hand and shot a torrent of water at Spindel's feet.
But the woman just leapt to the side, not taking any notice to the stream. She was silent for a moment before a clacking sound followed by a dry laughter. There was a click before her cracking voice said, "My children have always loved playing with their food. You can't blame a mother for her children's actions."
That only seemed to enrage Lorelai more. "Don't talk about him like he's just some meal! Everlasting Nightshade!" She cupped her hands and a small black flower appeared between them. With a yell, she threw the flower just above Spindel's head. The Demon Horn wizard didn't have time to jump out of the way this time as a shroud of darkness covered her.
Spindel hissed. "What is this?" She growled. Holding up her hand, she could just barely see it just inches from her face. She tried running out of the darkness, but no matter where she ran, there was still darkness.
"Free me!" She screamed. But then something lashed out and cut her, opening a wound and splitting the webbing that covered her arm. She hissed again, followed by more clacking sounds. She looked down at her arm and was shocked to see dark, purple particles gathering around the wound. She could barely see them, but with every contact the pain got worse. "What is this?"
But her question was never answered as something came whizzing through the darkness again, whipping her leg this time. "My father!" Another whip cut her back. "My mother!" And with each hit, more dark particles gathered around Spindel's wounds, causing immense pain to shoot through her whole body. A sickly purple hue appeared around the wounds like an infection. She screamed and hissed, but she didn't have any strength as something wrapped around her whole body. "My brother! I lose everything because of you!"
The darkness was dispelled and the black flower that was hovering over Spindel fell to the ground uselessly. Spindel shrieked as she saw vines sprouting from Lorelai's sleeves and wrapped around her.
She struggled to break free. "You cannot keep me like this." She screeched. "My children will not allow it!"
Lorelai just smiled evilly. "Then why aren't they stopping me, huh?" She looked around and she didn't see a single spider anywhere around her. "Where are they then? I mean, we took out that giant one yesterday, but I guess it's still suffering from Sissy's poison. Don't you have any more 'children'?" She taunted. There were tears in her eyes now. And all the shouting had left her throat sore. "We were told that you got beat bad by one of the guilds you tried destroying. Was that one big one the only one that survived?" More tears fell down her face as she laughed. "That means my brother's killers are pretty much gone. All that's left is you."
The vines raised Spindel into the air. "He'll be avenged soon."
While this was happening, Tamashi wasn't having as much luck against Pixelton. She'd searched the entire structure with her magic for any dead bodies to resurrect, but she could only find a handful of spider husks left. All the other spiders had been sucked into Pixelton's hat.
So when the man himself charged her and started swinging his cane, all she could do was dodge and duck.
"You can't defeat me, you stupid little girl!" Pixelton screamed in his high pitched voice. "I've taken away all your weapons. You couldn't win with an ocean of dead spiders, what are you going to do with ten?" He pulled off his hat and Tamashi tensed, expecting for everything to be sucked into it like last time. But instead, three doves were belched from the confines of the hat, each one using its beak to grab a spider husk and fly off with it.
Pixelton laughed. "Oops. Looks like you only have seven spiders left."
Tamashi could have hit herself. She'd let her guard down. She was smarter than that. "Ever heard of strategy?" She said back to the pale faced man. In truth, she didn't have a strategy, but she hoped to bluff the guy into acting more defensive.
But Pixelton just laughed. "Strategy? What strategy can you possibly conceive with seven spiders? I really must know."
Tamashi bit her lip. She had to think of something fast or she was in real trouble.
From his chair atop the stadium, Harlas was getting increasingly agitated. "Bligoro: Defeated." He said with a growl. "Spindel: Defeated. Two of my very own generals falling to a couple of children and a bird! And Milo and Sissy? Two of my most promising candidates? Fighting like lovesick teenagers!" The way Pixelton was putting Tamashi on the ropes made him feel slightly better, but then he looks at Spindel not far away and gets even angrier. Partly at himself for forgetting about Lorelai Blackwing. He hadn't thought about her joining her fellow guild wizards in the fight.
Then he glanced at Will and Ulrich. "You two! Don't just stand there! Go and finish off those guild wizard trash!"
The two made eye contact with each other and took a step forward…before immediately turning on their master.
Harlas went deathly silent. A shadow covered his eyes as his hands clenched angrily at the arms of his chair. "Ulrich Dreckenbolckt. I knew you would betray me." If Ulrich was surprised, he didn't let it show on his face. "You think I wouldn't remember you? Previous Master of the Silent Owl Guild?"
Ulrich's face was stone as he said, "Then you know that I am here to avenge my comrades that you so ruthlessly slaughtered." His muscles tensed as he prepared to act, the scars on his back bulging with the strain.
Harlas looked up and practically had fire in his eyes out of pure anger. But they weren't on Ulrich. They were on Will. "I expected him to do this. The only reason I allowed him in is because I was curious on how he would act. But you, Will? You were my right hand. You've never betrayed me. Not once have you ever gone against my word. But now?" Lurching to his feet, he swung his fist at Will, but the cloak clad wizard just caught the blow with his arm. "You betray your guild!"
This time it was Will with the fire in his eyes. "I saw my guild. All the people we've killed, all the families we've ruined, all the lives we've destroyed! I witnessed the consequences of our actions for years. Years!" He pushed Harlas away, the candles riddling Will's body lighting aflame with their ghostly blue fire.
"When I first joined this guild, I did so because I was in awe of your power. I respected it. But then I got to learn of the man inside and how dark and desolate he was. But I was committed…and blind. I thought your power would bring the guild to great heights. That we would be known throughout the world as the strongest dark guild and that even the Magic Council itself would shake at the mere mention of our name. But all you were focused on was destroying petty guilds." Will stared Harlas in the eyes, never looking away. Both of their fires burned, wanting to snuff out the other. But neither gave in. "And then we were defeated by Tempest Gale. When we separated and ran, leaving our guild mates behind, I too shelter in the home of one of our victims."
Will's eyes softened at the mention of the house. "Inside was a little girl. No older than thirteen. We'd killed her parents, leaving her to look after her baby brother and keep food on the table. They had barely enough for themselves, yet when she saw me laying in the alleyway next to her house, she invited me in…And even when she learned who I was, she didn't threaten to kill me. She didn't even throw me out. She just looked at me and said that even if I did horrible things…even if I took her parents for her…" His voice started shaking. Ulrich noticed that there were tears coming from his eyes, being absorbed by the cloth that covered his mouth. "Do you know what she said?" He asked. "She said that I looked like a kind man. That even if I left her all alone with her brother that I didn't deserve to be left out in the streets."
He looked at Harlas fiercely, even with the tears. "It was then that I vowed, 'No more'. No. More!" With a yell, the blue fire of the candles grew into a blaze and started gathering into a single ball over Will's head. "Willow the Wisp!"
The outlines of a spectral face appeared in the ball of flame, and with a roar it fell upon Harlas with a crash, lighting everything it touched on fire. Will stood next to Ulrich, breathing heavily and wiping the tears from his eyes. He didn't think that would be enough to defeat his Master, but he didn't see any movement inside the fire.
Then from behind the two of them came a deadly low voice. "Weakling." The ground beneath Ulrich and Will's feet rippled and threw the two to their knees. But they caught themselves and jumped away from what was behind them.
They were near the edge of the fire when they turned to see Harlas standing behind where they had been. He looked ready to kill. His eyes were wide with disbelief and fury. Blood was dripping from his gripped hands. There wasn't a burn or scratch on him from Will's attack. "Weakling!" He shouted. "To think my greatest general was turned against me by a mere girl."
He made a clap motion with his hands. "House!" A huge gust of wind filled the room, blowing out the fire Will had made as well as disturbing the fighting between the Pumpkin King and Demon Horn members. Bligoro went tumbling across the stadium while Dante had to hold onto Peeko to prevent him from being blown away. Milo and the Sissies had to grip the pillars they were standing on to prevent themselves from being torn off and thrown to the ground while Erk pulled on his goggles to keep any dust from getting in his eyes. Tamashi had to hold down her skirt from getting flipped up by the wind while her hair whipped through the air as Pixelton held onto his hat in annoyance. Lorelai was lifted off the ground for a moment before falling back down as Spindel was ripped from her vines and thrown to the ground in a heap.
Harlas took a deep breath before smiling and laughing hysterically. "I know what I did wrong. I know why I'm surrounded by betrayers and weaklings." He said aloud. "I should have left everyone to be captured by the Magic Council." He looked around to see everyone looking at him in confusion, except for Bligoro who was cowering in a corner near the stadium. "I need a fresh start. An entirely new guild. One that isn't weak. One that will cripple the entire world till it bows at my feet." He laughed maniacally.
"Not if we can stop you now, fiend!" Ulrich shouted, lunging at the crazed dark guild Master. "Earthly Body!" His body shined for a moment before he threw a fist at Harlas. The man was too busy laughing to notice the attack and took the blow directly to the face. Harlas was thrown off his feet by the force of the blow, but Ulrich was letting him go just yet. He dashed behind the man and hit him in the ribs with his elbow, sending the man crashing into the ground. The stadium shook with the impact, leaving a crater where Harlas lied.
But they weren't stopping there. Will made a few movements with his arms and blue flame circled around Ulrich's arms. "Now, Ulrich!" He shouted. "Finish him off!"
With a nod, Ulrich jumped towards the man in the crater, but Harlas regained consciousness before he could land the finishing blow. "House!" With a groan, a slab of stone and wooden support beams shot out of the ground and created a shield for Harlas just as Ulrich threw a punch with his right arm. The fire encasing the arm leapt at the barrier and ate away at everything that Ulrich's punch hadn't destroyed, leaving ash and dust to crumble at his feet. But when he reached down to grab Harlas, the Demon Horn Master had disappeared.
He quickly raised his head to search for him, but he didn't see a door appearing in the ground next to him. It opened with a rush and Harlas's hand flew out and pulled Ulrich in.
"No!" Will shouted. He jumped to help Ulrich, but by the time he reached him, the door had already closed and disappeared into the ground again. He quickly scanned the room, but he didn't have to search long before the door reappeared on the wall above the stadium. It opened with a creak and Ulrich's body fell out, the man looking more battered and bruised than he had before. The fire around his left arm had been snuffed out.
Will rushed over to him to look at his wounds, but while he did so Harlas appeared in the doorway he'd fallen out of. "Such weaklings." He said to the room. With a single step, he leapt out of the doorway and onto the platform below. "I'm disappointed, Will. You should know that I cannot be defeated in my own house." He raised his hands to the building. "I'm invincible here!" He chuckled. "True, there was once a time when you might have stood a chance, but you've grown weak in your betrayal. You cannot win now."
With a wild smile, Harlas snapped his fingers. Electricity gathered at his feet before pulsing and spreading out throughout the entire room. Everybody, Pumpkin King and Demon Horn alike, was electrocuted by current. Everyone screamed and fell to their knees as electricity arced through their bodies. Bligoro was wailing on his back while Dante was on his knees, trying his best not to scream. Peeko hadn't been swift enough in flying into the air. Now he lay on the ground with his wings outstretched, screeching in pain. A clacking and hissing sound emanated from Spindel as the spider webs covering her body began sizzling from the electricity coursing through them. The Sissies were writhing in pain and screaming until they all converged into the original on the pillar Milo was standing on. But she was soon alone in her pain as Milo lost his balance and crashed into the ground, not far from where Erk was trying to crawl his way to some place safe. He was twitching and grinding his teeth in pain. Tamashi and Pixelton both fell to the ground at the same time. They were close enough to each other the electricity was arcing from one of their bodies to the other. Lorelai's vine's caught on fire and she had to disconnect them from her body or risk catching fire as well as being electrocuted. Now she lied on the ground, screaming her voice coarse in pain. Will did his best to hide the pain, but even he was at his knees, though he did manage to keep his head raised to glare at Harlas. Ulrich unconscious form lied motionless.
Harlas studied his handiwork in satisfaction. "This house is like the inside of my body. I know everything that happens in it. I now every person who steps inside, I know their every movement and conversation. I hear all and know all inside my House. But the most useful and destructive feature of this magic is that the House acts just like a human body. It has an immune system to keep undesired beings out." He walked over to Ulrich and kicked him in the ribs. "You saw this as the barrier around the outside of this building. But instead of keeping the sick outside, I tweaked it slightly to do the opposite. Only the sick can get in. The strong gain no entry."
Then he walked over to Will and kicked him to the ground. "The House also has a nervous system, just like every human does. And the nervous system is made up of electrical impulses. Normally, not harmful. But I've learned how to gather these impulses and employ them against my enemies." He leaned down and grinned at Will. "As you are now experiencing." With a smile, he kicked Will's head over and stood back up. "That's why everyone who enters must take of their shoes, like good guests. Those rubber soles shoes have just get in the way of the electric impulses. And we can't have that."
"Funny thing about electricity." A voice said.
Harlas's eyes bulged and he whirled around to see Dante staggering to his feet. "Not possible." The dark guild leader said.
Dante was breathing heavily but he managed to smile cockily at Harlas. "It doesn't mix with earth that well." He finished. With a grunt he finally managed to get on his feet. And out of the corner of his eye, he saw Erk crawling slowly onto the platform. Erk saw him looking and managed a smile before wincing in pain. When he reached a pillar, he started slowly pulling himself to his feet, using it as a crutch.
Harlas was too focused on Dante to notice Erk. Reaching out, made a griping motion and punched towards Dante. More electricity ran towards the earth wizard, causing him to finally scream in pain. But he didn't go to his knees. He stayed standing. This might be their only chance to get out of their alive.
Harlas chuckled in amusement as Dante tried unclenching his jaw. He put a hand to his ear and said, "What was that? I couldn't quite hear you."
Dante growled. He heard whimpering behind him and turned his head to see Lorelai whimpering and screaming on the ground. She was in so much pain. That steeled his resolve. Taking a deep breath, he ignored the electricity coursing through him. He ignored the pain that gnawed at ever fiber in his body. Bringing his hands together, he pointed them at Erk. "Earth…Make: Hero!"
A shining, brown magic circle appeared beneath Erk's feet, drawing Harlas's attention. Erk's eyes were wide as dirt and stone flowed like water around him, encasing him, and cutting him off from the stream of electricity that was paralyzing everyone else. A stone helmet appeared on his head, covering everything except the goggles over his eyes. A stone suit of armor. Dirt and rock flowed over his fists, creating gauntlets exactly like the ones Dante always wore. But while his head and torso were encased in stone, his legs and feet were covered in layers of dirt, giving him the flexibility he needed to run.
And he fully intended on running.
The moment the spell was finished, Dante fell to his knees again, but managed to shout out, "Beat…his…ass." Through clenched teeth.
Erk grinned underneath his helmet. "One beaten ass, coming right up." He looked Harlas in the eye, the other man's eyes filled shock. "Steam Engine!" The train whistle sounded and Erk rushed forward with a boost of speed and momentum.
But Harlas shook himself out of his shock. "I'll stop you just like before, whelp!" He clapped his hands together again and shouted, "House!" But before he could use any magic, a wall of blue flame engulfed him. Harlas screamed in fury and jumped out of the fire to bring his furious gaze down upon Will, who was on his knees with a hand outstretched. "You can't stop me now!" He snapped his fingers. "House!"
Nothing happened. Harlas snapped his fingers a few more times, but still nothing. He whirled to Will. "What have you done!?"
Will managed a chuckle. "You've forgotten something, Master. My ghost fire doesn't just burn material. It burns everything. Even magic." As if on cue, the ghostly flames appeared over Harlas's head, burning away at strings that looked like they connected him to the building. "I've burned through your connection to the house. You're powerless." He laughed as the electricity coursing through the room stopped, relieving every one of their pain. Reaching up, he tore off the cloth that read 'Silence' and threw it to the ground, revealing his smile. "I just needed someone to take your attention off of me."
Erk blew his train whistle again as he grew ever closer to Harlas. The man turned to stare at Erk. "No!" He yelled. "I can't be defeated. Not in my own house! Nooo!" With a crash of stone and earth, Erk rammed into Harlas.
"If you can't stand being beaten in your house," Erk said to the crazed Master, "then let's take this outside!" Using all the momentum he'd gathered, he rammed them through wall after wall, tearing holes through the entire structure. Each time, Harlas groaned as his own body was used to break his house.
Then they finally burst outside, debris and rubble following their trail as the sun shined down on them through the gaps in the tree branches of the forest. The ground around the old, mossy castle was dead and barren from Harlas's barrier, but now that the barrier was gone, Erk took them farther out into the forest until they reached a clearing. Then he threw Harlas off, the man gasping and groaning from all the impacts.
But Erk wasn't finished. He circled around the clearing until he'd gathered enough speed. Then he shouted, "Rail Change!" But instead of jumping to another spot in the clearing, he jumped high into the sky, directly above where Harlas was lying on the ground. Then, using all the magic he had left, he pointed himself down. "This is for all those guilds! Steam Engine!"
Harlas watched Erk fall towards him like a meteor. And all he could do was scream as Erk collided with him with enough force to create a crater large enough to reach back to the castle.
Erk staggered away from Harlas, the Hero armor falling to pieces around him. He was definitely going to feel that in the morning. He looked at Harlas's unconscious for and really hoped he hadn't killed him on accident.
Then he just laughed and fell back into the dirt. "Heh. I beat your ass."
Erk, Dante, Tamashi, and Lorelai were all standing next to Master Jack as the Magic Council bound the Demon Horn members in shackles. Erk, Dante, and Tamashi were all looking rather pleased with themselves. Even if Dante was wearing a sling for the arm Bligoro had bitten out of. But Lorelai was watching as one by one, the Demon Horn members were filed into a circle of knights ready to transport them to prison.
"I'm very proud of you seedlings." Jack praised. He patted Erk and Dante on the head. "You've done good."
Erk grinned cheekily and put his hands behind his head. "It was nothing. A piece of cake!"
Dante laughed. "Yup! Nothing too it. Dark guilds? Pffft! Nothing!"
Tamashi just rolled her eyes.
Lorelai watched as Harlas was carried to the circle. Erk had crushed his ribs in multiple places, but he'd live. But he wasn't going anywhere for a while.
Then Will walked passed. He was going to go without comment, but Jack put a hand on his shoulder and nodded towards the guards. The two knights nodded back and took a step back from their captive.
"You're Will, correct?" The Master asked, his tone serious.
Will didn't look like he was going to answer until he finally said, "Yes."
Jack just stared at him through his pumpkin mask, his green eyes studying the young man. "Erk and the others told me about what happened in that castle. You stood up to your Master, something that would mean certain death in a dark guild. That was a very commendable act. We might not have won had it not been for that, something the Magic Council is sure to take into consideration."
Will just shook his head. "No. The Council can just forget about my actions today. I've got too much blood on my hands. True, I helped your guild members, but that doesn't erase the damage I've done in the past." He looked at Jack. "I deserve prison."
Erk, Dante, Tamashi, and Lorelai were watching Will now. But Jack just smiled beneath his mask. "You know, I just recently lost a member of my guild." Will didn't respond, he silently waited for Jack to continue. "He was an honorable man. A great man. But, like you, he came from a dark past. Like you, he had blood on his hands. Something for which he could never atone for." He looked up at the sky. "But there was good in him. He deserved prison, but I invited him to my guild. To, instead of serving his time in prison, try and work for atonement. To help those around him and make the world a better place."
The four Pumpkin King wizards' faces grew solemn as Jack continued talking. "But he died. He died saving and entire town of people. He put his life on the line just so he could help others." He looked back at Will. "Maybe I'm just being sentimental. But I see that same goodness in you, William Torch." Will shifted at the mention of his name. "What do you say? Want to join my guild?"
The four Pumpkin King wizards practically fell back in shock. But Will didn't even react. Instead, he smiled sadly and slowly shook his head. "No. I appreciate the offer, but I belong in prison. Maybe…maybe after I've served my time I'll take you up on that offer." He looked at his guards and motioned towards the circle. "But thank you…Pumpkin King."
Jack sighed sadly as Will was taken away. But there was nothing he could do to change his mind. Erk and the others didn't bother trying to rouse their Master out of his thoughts. Instead, they went over to where Ulrich was standing with a small group of people. Erk smiled as he saw Divana Peek. The same girl he and Ulrich had been interviewed with. Apparently, she hadn't been killed. None of the people who failed the interview had. Instead, they'd been wrapped in cocoons and stored in the upper levels of the castle. According to Will, they'd planned to ransom the people back for money. Divana saw him and smiled softly back.
"Hey Ulrich!" Erk and Dante shouted as they got close. "Is this everyone?"
Ulrich turned back to the four wizards and smiled warmly. "Every last one." He informed them.
Erk smiled back. "That's good. Nobody should be left in this nasty place." Then he studied the larger man. "So what are you going to do now? Restart your guild?"
Ulrich shook his head. "No. I'm done with the guild business. Now that I've had revenge, my guild can rest in peace. Now I plan on escorting these people home." He gestured at the group of roughly twelve people, including Divana. "Their families are scattered all throughout the kingdom and the Council doesn't have the time to take them all home. So I volunteered for that job."
"All that trouble just to be a babysitter. Wow." Tamashi sniffed.
Ulrich laughed but just shook his head. "I've been training on Mount Centrum for a long time now. It'll be good to go out and see the world again."
Jack watched his seedlings talking with Ulrich and smiled. But then one of the knights ran up to him and saluted. "Sir, we have a problem!"
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Oh? What kind of problem. I hope you aren't thinking of sending us out on another mission. My seedlings are too tired for another job."
The knight shook his head. "No, sir. But we're missing a captive. The report includes a young man with a scythe and blue hair. A recruit who sided with Demon Horn during the battle. Milo, I believe his name was. There's no trace of him anywhere."
Jack waved him off. "Just let the Council deal with it. He's probably just some punk who want attention more than trouble." He turned to his guild members and waved at them. "Come on, kiddies! Time to head home!"
In an underground lab, a machine was buzzing with wires and lacrima. It was connected to two tables. One had a tarp thrown over it with something resembling a body underneath. On the other lied Milo.
He appeared unconscious with a lacrima protruded from his forehead which was connected to a wire that ran to the machine. There were arcs of electricity flowing from him to whatever was lying underneath the tarp on the other table.
A man in a pitch black robe stood between the tables with his hands behind his back. After a moment, the machine turned off and the electricity stopped. The man disconnected the wire that was attached to Milo's lacrima and the moment it was off, the lacrima sank back beneath his skin. Reaching underneath the tarp, the man pulled out another wire.
"Was the trip worthwhile?" The man asked.
But it wasn't Milo that answered. Milo sat on the table lifelessly staring up at the ceiling. It was whatever was under the tarp that answered. "Nope. We busted on this one." A ghostly pale hand snaked out from beneath the tarp and pulled it off, revealing a man in a white lab coat and tattered jeans. His hair was snow white.
He looked at the man in the black robe. "We might have found a gold mine with those Demon Horn bastards. But then you'll never guess who showed up to ruin the party. Pumpkin King."
The robed man was silent for a moment before he slammed a fist on Milo's table. "Damn! Pumpkin King. It's always Pumpkin King." Then he took a deep breath and composed himself. "You were good with Milo's body, I presume?"
The pale man waved a nonchalant hand at him. "Yeah, yeah. My stupid brother, Milo, won't even know I was joy riding it."
The robed man shook his head. "We can't risk another excursion like that. You need to stay in base until the plan is ready. You almost got caught once already…Jilo."
Jilo grinned maniacally at the robed man. "Don't worry so much. We're almost there, right?" He jumped off the table and walked over to Milo. "Besides, it's not like my brother has a soul or anything. He won't even care that I was in his body. He's just a puppet!"
He raised a hand to smack Milo's face, but the robed man stopped him. "Enough." He said commandingly. "The emissaries from the dark guild Steel Fist are here. Go greet them and make them at home. There is much planning to do." He glanced to a shadow that was leaning against the doorway of the lab. "Isn't that so, Samuel of Steel Fist?"
Samuel smiled, his black armor blending with the shadows. "Indeed, Doctor. After all, one doesn't destroy Pumpkin King without a plan."